Can up skilling lawyers solve the gender gap?

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Providing greater opportunities for training may be the key to overcoming the legal profession’s gender gap, a recruiter has said.

Hays’ Darren Buchanan said that the reasons for the disparity between genders vary from structural, cultural and choice or lifestyle factors.  He said the solution to encouraging women to rise through the ranks in a traditionally male dominated industry is a cultural change.

“It’s about a change in attitudes around work flexibility and that’s not just the individuals or the company itself, it’s a general discussion around productivity and the traditional working model says that to be productive, you’ve got to be there and you’ve got to be typically in the office for a minimum number of work hours to be productive,” he said.  “I think the methodologies and policies written around that and don’t accommodate well or it’s a big challenge for companies to try and re-write them to be more flexible.”

He said the solution is for firms to allow employees wishing to return to the profession the option to engage with the legal work, either through intermittent contribution or training while taking maternity leave.  

“While their male colleagues are continuing to develop their skills and training within the firm, the primary carer, and it could be the male or female, is being left behind,” he said. 

“So if there was some way of providing training for those primary carers… if there was some way of keeping them upskilled like a professional development program that allowed them to continue to either learn or contribute and also meant that they could re-join the firm, having progressed either their skill level or experience, that would facilitate people being able to get to those senior positions.”

In a recent survey of professionals conducted by Hays, only 9% of respondents said they believed that quotas made an impact to the gender divide.
The survey also found that men and women have vastly different ideas of the gender gap, with 18% of men compared with 45% of women believing that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Buchanan said the results weren’t particularly surprising and that different groups often have varying perspectives on such issues.
  • Dr Virginia Marshall on 13/03/2015 11:51:32 AM

    Louise I agree with your comments and especially about the limits to recruitment agencies and applying for 'top jobs'. I raised 4 young children while studying and working and successfully completed 7 degrees, four in law. I run a rural legal practice and remain active with the Law Society with the Mock Trial, mentoring law students & graduates, teaching LS in Conveyancing, Criminal and Environmental & Pro bono work for Indigenous communities. Women for Board positions also needs a targeted response. Thank you for your comments.

  • Louise Steer on 9/03/2015 11:05:12 AM

    with 3 law degrees, and a wealth of experience in commercial and corporate law, both inhouse and in practice, I rose through the ranks to become a senior lawyer and senior executive. I did all this while raising 2 children. In 33 years, no recruiter, including Hays has ever been able to find me a job. I have made my own opportunities. In fact, I can't recall whether I've had an interview with Hays, despite years of applications for "top jobs". Instead of blaming women for not being skilled, how about putting skilled women up for jobs?

  • Maureen Scott on 9/03/2015 10:45:29 AM

    Yes because new mothers really need something to fill in all that spare time they have when caring for a newborn baby, or to be made to feel guilty that they are not advancing their careers whilst they are taking time out to care for their children. If pressure is to be put on those on maternity leave to 'progress their skill level or experience', they might just as well work part time and at least be paid for their time.

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